The US Department of Transportation's (DoT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has notified all states with operational rail systems to establish an FTA-certified State Safety Oversight (SSO) programme.
The programme must be implemented by 15 April 2019, and the FTA will be prohibited by federal law from funding any public transportation agencies that fail to comply with the order until the certification process is completed.
A total of 30 US states are yet to receive SSO programme certification, which ensures the highest level of safety for rail transit riders and workers.
In addition, seven out of the 30 states will also be required to take necessary state legislative or executive action before implementing FTA certification.
Ohio became the first state in the country to complete the process and achieve the full certification of its programme.
FTA Deputy Administrator Jane Williams said: “Certification is an important achievement by the state of Ohio and demonstrates that the Ohio SSO programme has the authority, resources, and expertise needed to oversee the rail transit systems in that state.”
A programme must fulfil multiple federal statutory requirements in order to receive FTA certification, including the financial and legal independence of the SSO agency from the rail transit agencies it supervises.
The agency must also have an investigatory authority, necessary financial and human resources, as well as be in a position to enforce applicable federal and state laws.
All SSO agency personnel must have proper training and are required to become qualified in performing safety oversight activities.
FTA is currently assisting all the remaining states to achieve the certification as the deadline cannot be waived or extended further,
The agency has provided almost $90m in funding to the respective states since 2013, and has also issued a toolkit that aims to guide state officials through the SSO programme certification process.